Although temperature data shows that there has been a sixteen (16) year pause in global warming, the Obama Administration continues its push for more regulation of greenhouse gases. In fact, President Obama has flatly stated that, for the balance of his term, his administration would continue to combat climate change as one of its “key priorities” and focus on “strategies … that are lowering … dangerous carbon pollution.” Speech, July 24, 2013. In addition to the ongoing ‘war on coal,’ the continuing decrease in amount of oil and gas production from federally-controlled lands, and the implementation of emission standards for fracking, the administration has proposed and/or implemented ideas to make good on its promise.
For example, discussion of a carbon tax as a measure to lower greenhouse gas emissions has recently been revived. Some have suggested that Mr. Obama should impose such a tax administratively if Congress does not act. Politicians touting such a plan should learn from the results of a recent national election in Australia. A carbon tax was passed there last year. However, the governing Labor Party, who was responsible for the unpopular tax, suffered a major defeat at the polls, ushering in an entirely new government who promised that the carbon tax would be repealed. Of course, the imposition of a carbon tax, even if it did lower carbon emissions in the United States, would not affect carbon emissions from other growing economic powers, such as China and India, and would unilaterally and severely impact U.S. manufacturing competitiveness.
Additionally, the Obama Administration recently raised the amount of the ‘social cost of carbon’ without any input from Congress. The social cost of carbon is an attempt to put in monetary terms the alleged damage done from the emission of one ton of carbon dioxide. It is used in EPA rule-making as part of its cost-benefit analysis. An increase in the social cost of carbon inflates the monetary benefits of a rule, allowing EPA to claim that the benefits outweigh the costs of the rule.
The House, though, has attempted to prevent these outcomes. First, in response to the possibility that a carbon tax would be instituted administratively through rule-making, it voted to require the approval of Congress to implement a carbon tax. Second, the House voted to prevent EPA from using the social cost of carbon unless a federal law is enacted that allows its consideration. While these votes may be symbolic as they are unlikely to receive support in the Senate, they nevertheless signal a willingness by a growing number of politicians and scientists to oppose this administration’s efforts to enact climate change proposals.
Even an upcoming report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) seems to address the pause in global warming by slightly easing its prediction as to global temperatures in the future. The IPCC will reportedly suggest that the temperature rise caused by greenhouse gas emissions will be less than previous conclusions contained in prior reports. Mr. Obama claimed several months ago that “the climate is warming faster than anybody anticipated five or 10 years ago.” His claim is undercut by the conclusions in the upcoming IPCC report.
In fact, greenhouse gas emissions are trending downward in the United States, mainly due to the increased use of natural gas brought about by the fracking revolution which has produced cheap natural gas for use in industry and energy production. Continued insistence on more and more costly regulation in the face of lower overall emissions, a changing prediction of future warming, and the current pause in warming may lead to an Australian-like election in which those responsible for ever-increasing and costly regulations are voted out of office.